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March 19, 2020


Wonderful. Thank you Beth.

Beautiful. Thank you, Beth.

As it happens, I cracked out Transtromer's collected poems four days ago and have been reading him every morning while I drink my coffee.

Thank you for this poem today, Beth.

I suppose this is the post I've been waiting for you to write (not that I haven't read and enjoyed the others). After my last singing lesson, just over a fortnight ago, I parted from V in the usual way: yes it had been a rewarding but very tough session (a Clara Schumann song) and yes I would rehearse - specifically - this and that. Only a few days were to elapse before I realised - to my horror and sorrow - it would be irresponsible to continue with lessons even though V is continuing to hold them. I emailed her and she was grace itself.

But, however temporary, it couldn't end like that. I am pursuing Skype, have ordered a webcam and kept V au courant. Yesterday she emailed me and said she'd conducted a recorder lesson via Skype and it had been a great success. Waiting impatiently for the webcam I have occupied myself by singing over a track of Du bist die Ruh by the baritone, Christian Gerhaher, and recording the combined result. Which I will email to V for her assessment.

And, yes, you have put your finger on it exactly: "there's a music quotient in my life that can only be satisfied by making music, not just by listening".

I could have written verse about my musical situation, as Transtromer did, but unfortunately there's verse on another rather demanding subject - the onset of death - that is occupying my frontal lobes and needs to be dealt with first in these troublous times. Not knowingly predictive as far as I know.

Am I being trivial in suggesting that Transtromer's choice of composer - Haydn - makes all the difference? That it was the decision of someone who truly loves music and didn't have to prove the point by citing one of the grander names. Not that Haydn is in any sense the lesser composer, just that some people may not even know he wrote piano music And I, memory stirred, have a delicious if very ancient recording of Backhaus doing Sonatas 52 and 48 which I must now listen to. All those sonatas!

Thanks, all.

Robbie, I’m glad you are figuring out ways to keep singing and keep up your communication with V., which has been so important to you and (I suspect) to her. I’m going to haul out my flute soon. I once played well, but now play badly, so it’s frustrating, but at least it’s music-making.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.